I’m three months into my Service Adventure year, and I
believe it’s an incredible program. Taking young, ambitious teenagers with the
will to serve others, sending them to a new home with new people, and making
them figure out how to do life together. For me, this is one of the best
decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve learned to be more independent with money, time,
and everyday chores. Cold weather and cities do not sit well with me, but I am challenging
myself to embrace these things and make the most of it.
Being here in Anchorage, I’ve realized how sheltered and
innocent I was, and how blessed I am to have a wholesome, loving family. On my
first day at work at the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, I was slapped with
the reality of life outside of what I’ve known. I helped make food and then
serve it. I’ve never been around people who are homeless, and I didn’t really
know what to expect. Throughout the whole day, I saw God at work through the
people there. Everyone was so positive and uplifting, and I got to see all the
programs that the Hope Center offered.
When I met one of the workers, we connected right away. He
shared his backstory with me. As a child he was abused, and he started drinking
at a very young age. At 15, things went wrong and he ended up spending 35 years
in jail for manslaughter that he didn’t remember committing. Ever since he was
saved, he turned his life around. He is a remarkable person. He helped me
throughout the day and even defended me from some cruel remarks made by other
people. I saw and learned so much in one day. I came home overwhelmed with
emotions I had never felt before.
Alaska has brought many amazing experiences, like going
hiking and camping in some breathtaking places. I’ve also had some down moments,
like witnessing drugs and alcohol and even some fatal accidents. Through it
all, I’ve seen God like never before in the places I’ve been and the people
I’ve met. On our first snow, I sat in the living room and watched it fall. I
was overwhelmed with this sense of peace, and I know that was God. He was there
with me as I sang some hymns to myself.
I am thankful and blessed to be part of this journey.
Bethany Masters is a Service Adventure participant with
the Anchorage unit. She serves at the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, which,
in addition to a soup kitchen, operates a culinary school, bakery, shelter, shower
house, and garden.
God is everywhere! Even in the driest desert (which has a
humidity of 9 percent!).
Since I arrived here in Albuquerque on Aug. 10, I’ve learned
to find God’s presence best in the quiet places. I’ve learned so much about
myself as well! To leave your house, family, friends and basically your old
life, is a big step to get to know yourself better. To dive into a completely
new place gives not only a different view about yourself, but also about your
past life. Everything is new and not familiar at all.
That means you have to be brave, curious, responsive, and
especially patient with yourself and the people around you. Not everything
comes at the beginning, but it will come. I’ve also learned that living in a
unit with different people brings together everyone‘s different cultures and
expectations. It isn’t easy at all! Accepting how everyone else in the unit
lives and works is a necessity. Every day requires the conscious decision to
make the best out of it and to believe that it will get better. And hopefully
In the worship services at Albuquerque Mennonite Church, I
have noticed the different ways faith is practiced around the world. Even
though we all have the same faith in God, there are different ways of believing
in, and living through, the Holy Spirit.
I have also noticed that the people in church live out their
faith in God in a very practical way. Things like service assignment Sunday or
the generous potluck after church showed me this practical faith. Sometimes I
miss the very spirited worship at my church at home. But then I see the very
generous and self-sacrificing way to do worship and to honor God‘s love here.
Those ways have showed me the variety of worship.
I work as an art assistant with many different children in
various classes. One day I am teaching kids from the Montessori school, and on
other days I am teaching kids who tell me that they are hungry. This immense
contrast shocked me at the beginning, but showed me the differences kids face
in growing up in the year 2019. It gave me a complete new approach to my work
every day. Now I am looking for what the kids really need, and I try to focus
myself toward the needs that they have. All children, whether they are in the
Montessori school or the normal middle schools, need attention, love, and
somebody who listens to them. Every kid, every day!
So, I am not trying to be the art assistant with the art
skills. Instead, I am just being the Helen who’s entertaining the kids after
school. Plus, through art, I’ve found a good way to share my skills with them
as well. I can feel that this is a good placement for me, and God uses me here
in different ways every day.
Helen Tiefenbach is a Service Adventure participant with
the Albuquerque unit. She serves as an art teacher assistant with the Harwood
Art Center, the outreach program of Escuela del Sol Montessori school.